Monday, July 30, 2012

Too much communication!

I came up before cell phones existed. I walked to a New York City public school, and my mother took the subway to work at wherever she was assigned as a Transit Authority railroad clerk. If I  got sick during the school day, I pretty much descended into a lethargic mass until the end of the day, then walked home and went to bed. I was rarely sick enough to warrant a visit to the school nurse, and not once did I have a condition that required a call from my "Medical Contact" card.

Such experiences gave me a realistic sense of what's what. "I don't feel good" is in a completely different category from "Call my mom because I'm sick." I think one's emotional health is hinged on having a balanced understanding of such differences. I teach high school students who have "under the weather" type days quite often. (Who doesn't?) For most of them, the first response is, "Can I call my mom, or my grandma?" My response is always, "Of course you can, if you are really sick, but I saw you laughing a few minutes ago, so I'm not sure you're really sick. You probably just don't feel so good." Then I give my lecture about wasting a working person's sick days, and then I have to explain what they are. Then I tell them about me and my mom, and me and my daughter. And I explain to them that really sick usually involves intense pain, or vomiting, or diarrhea, or swollen glands, or a fever, or a pallor, or listlessness, etc. I think I owe this to the parents and grandparents who will be stressed out by a call saying that their loved one is too sick to function.

But! I'd say about 7 times out of 10, I'll get a call from the office within the 90-minute class period saying that the child is being picked up by a parent or caregiver. The same child who is now chatting it up and gossiping at the computer with pals as they're working on their projects. But the parent has been secretly texted, and I get a creepy crawly feeling about what kinds of kids we're raising.

It's important for parents and caretakers to teach young people clear enough boundaries about: 1)  school day communications, and 2) what constitutes a medical intervention. Such responses to mild discomfort, in my opinion, give them unrealistic ideas about their own strength and ability to endure the headaches of life. This is really unfortunate because the true discomforts in life, which are still bearable, will seem like a living hell to them. To take it a step further, I think this has a lot to do with the overmedication of our society... because once you're grown up and you can't call mom, who do you call? The doctor!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Staying Grounded in a Frantic World: Don't try to impress anybody.

Staying Grounded in a Frantic World: Don't try to impress anybody.: I was self-employed for years. I had to give a lot of thought about how to "sell" myself and my products to prospective clients. I was think...

Don't try to impress anybody.

I was self-employed for years. I had to give a lot of thought about how to "sell" myself and my products to prospective clients. I was thinking about that today, and remembered how there were times that I was so stressed about meeting certain people that I'd be a wreck up to the moment that I sat in the chair.  (That is not healthy!) There is no shortage of books and articles about how to impress and influence people, and reading such things will definitely make us feel like we're preparing ourselves for what we might encounter. And there is certainly a need to dress and act according to the environment we're entering. But there are simple uniforms that we can all wear and little guidelines we can follow for such occasions (like no-gum and cellphones) and be done with that part of it. No stress there.

What I'm talking about is the stress of interacting with a strange personality who will be judging our personality and making a decision about who we are and whether or not we are worthy. I'm talking about the stress that goes into trying to land whatever it is we're trying to land.


Can we really know what a stranger values and favors in another individual? I think not. Everybody is unique-- including a prospective boss, a new man or woman, your finance's parents, a potential client, etc. Trying to adjust or contort ourselves in order to make someone think highly of us is a recipe for throwing off our game.

What do I mean by that? The truth is, the best we have to offer is the confident self; not the shrinking, insecure, I-hope-you-like-me self. What is attractive-- whether in business or in our personal lives, is usually the thoughtful presentation of the best qualities that we have acquired and honed according to our unique experiences.

So when we approach situations that require us to impress someone, maybe we can shift the thinking to the need to show up as the best self that we have to offer. I really believe that we should reflect often about how to develop the gifts and personal traits that we have-- sort of like training for personal olympics. If we have goals and aspirations, we can continually take personal inventories of our strengths and and qualities and keep refining them and sharpening them, so that when opportunities arrive, we are more than prepared to show up as the confident individuals that we have become-- instead of stressing over who we need to be in somebody else's eyes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Using vacation time well

One of the greatest perks about teaching is having the summer off. (Although I hear year-round teachers love their schedule.) The great thing for me is that I get to write a LOT! I always write, but what I always want is to get up in the morning and write all day, and just do that day after day after day. But even during summer vacation, I still have to eat well, exercise, do laundry, vacuum, and brush my teeth, etc. So my point is that even when we have down time, there is a long list of must dos.

Why am I throwing the monkey wrench into the notion of vacation? Because I use time better when I'm realistic about all that life requires. The first summer I was off disappeared in the blink of an eye. I had little to show for it. I had this naive notion that time drags during vacation, and I'd have plenty of time. It doesn't drag! It flies! All year I'd waited for the summer vacation to come so I'd have time to get organized, clear the attic, finish the novel, get rid of clutter, etc. But my late starts and daydreaming with three cups of tea took up hours of my days, and suddenly it was all over. I was soooo disappointed.

This is not happening to me this year! I front-loaded a lot of entertainment into my schedule as soon as I got out, and I still have lots of time left! I went to NY, had houseguests, went to a family reunion, and really enjoyed myself. Now I'm writing during morning hours, and researching a good part of the afternoon, and I'm building in the must-dos where they fit in. This is exactly the vacation lifestyle that satisfies my soul.

So if you're lucky enough to have asummer vacation, I nudge you to enjoy every minute of it. And I urge you to prioritize doing the things you really want to do. Otherwise all your time can be spent doing all the things you have to do anyway (like the laundry and dinner and vacuuming) without the satisfaction of using time in the way you intended or that nourishes your spirit. And it doesn't matter whether you have a week, a month, or two months, it's your time to use the way YOU decide. So make decisions about what will give you the greatest satisfaction.


Nardo and I with Walt (Clyde) Frazier at Clyde Frazier's Wine and Dine in NYC.